Skiing Mt Bachelor, Oregon (January 2012)

Because my Colorado Epic Ski Pass allows me to ski at the legendary Lake Tahoe Ski Resort this year, my ski buddy and I decide on making our first visit to this skier paradise. For years, I’ve heard that Tahoe reliably gets big accumulations of snow each year, making for great ski conditions. How can we go wrong?

We book our flight to Reno (gateway to Tahoe).

But we then watch in growing horror and utter disappointment as snow reports out of Tahoe are unimaginably grim. The last time they have gotten so little snow in December and January was in the 1800s. A cruel reminder of our ski trip to Innsbruck Austria in February of 2007, when we learned that Innsbruck was suffering from its warmest winter in 800 years.

Could our timing be worse?

We start scrambling for a new ski venue. Our first choice is Schweitzer Ski Resort — a place I have not ever heard of, but considered to be a pleasant ski destination in Idaho. But while their snow accumulation is not awful, it is also not particularly exciting.

My sister alerts me to the thought that Oregon (where she lives) boasts very good skiing. I first investigate the well-known Mt Hood. But some of the resorts there seem rather pedestrian. My sister points out that by contrast, Mt Bachelor hosts Olympic skiers in training.

Sounds like a good fit to me for excellent skiing.

My buddy and I revise our flight plans so that we are now to fly into Portland. We are then confronted by a quite long night drive along narrow, dark, winding, icy mountain roads as I carefully and nervously seek to navigate our rental car to Bend Oregon, gateway town to Mt Bachelor.

For once, our timing is superb. Just before we arrive at Mt Bachelor, the mountain has been buried by over 100 inches of fresh, powdery snow.

We lodge at a surprisingly affordable and adequate Days Inn in Bend OR. Hot breakfast, hot whirlpool outdoor spa. Snow report each morning for Mt Bachelor – 24 mi away.

Bend is a sleepy, pleasant town full of roundabouts (quite impressive, speaking as a transportation consultant) that mostly have whimsical public art sculptures. The town is full of brewpubs brewing delicious, hand-crafted beer (indeed, we are told that Bend may have the largest number of brewpubs, per capita, in the world). Originally created as a railroad town, the economy was mostly based on lumber. Today the economy focuses on tourism. The Deschutes River passes through town. The name of the town probably referring to the town being at the “bend in the river.”

The Black Butte Porter and Deschutes BrewPub in Bend were both outstanding!

Our first day on the mountain is highly enjoyable. It is a Sunday, yet the number of skiers is sparse. And this is a few days after the mountain received a record dump of fresh snow – over 100 inches of powder.

Puzzling.

One explanation we are given is that people ski a lot, but need a day off (Sunday) to “do laundry.”

While there are a good number of challenging, enjoyable runs on the mountain (particularly the tree glade runs), we find that the black diamonds ski like intermediate blue runs.

On day two, we are happy to hear the great news that the “Summit Express” chair lift, which delivers skiers to the backside (where a large number of double-black diamond runs await) is now open (it was closed on our first day). But we opt to pass on the summit, as we are thoroughly exhausted from a strenuous day of glorious skiing in very deep new powder that had fallen the night before. The amount was reported to be only six inches, but it was clearly 12-18 inches of POW for the places we skied.

I find it joyous that I am able to ski the most virgin powder that I have ever had the pleasure to ski. Previously I had skied only a portion of one run of untouched powder, but on this day, nearly everywhere we ski all day is untouched. The snow feels soft, fluffy, and velvety.

It is as if I am skiing on clouds.

Day three: I have never, ever skied so much virgin, fluffy, untouched powder. Hardly anyone has skied the high-quality glades we ski. Deep powder everywhere means we have a fabulous time in the glades. We have no fear anymore of any glade, no matter how difficult or steep.

My favorite runs (amost all black diamond) on the mountain:

Devil’s Backbone

The unnamed run under the Northwest lift

Dilly Dalley Alley, which is mostly a kiddie run, but the tight little half-pipe is a lot of fun when run at high speed (and emptied of kiddies…)

Osprey

Snapshot (the mountain provides breathtaking views of a valley and snow-capped, mighty peaks on the horizon, although the large majority of runs at Bachelor provide spectacular views)

Sparks Lake Run

West Bowls & Glades

The glades off Rainbow lift

On our last day, in the glorious mid-day sun, we find ourselves sweetly, softly, smoothly carving our way through deep, virgin powder in the West Bowl glades.

Pure bliss.

This link is a YouTube slide show of the photos we shot while skiing at Mt Bachelor:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwlCUNebQD0

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Categories: 2011-Present, Oregon, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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